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American Indian Caucus blindsided

Montana legislators surprised by bison plan

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News from Montana American Indian Caucus

MONTANA — Members of the Montana Legislature’s American Indian Caucus expressed surprise and dismay that Gov. Greg Gianforte scrapped a historic bison management plan without notifying or consulting them, and apparently, without consulting Montana’s tribal nations.

“We were blindsided by this administration’s decision,” said Representative Sharon Stewart-Peregoy, a Democrat from Crow Agency and chairwoman of the Montana Legislature’s American Indian Caucus. “To our surprise, we read about the governor’s decision in the newspaper. That’s not a government-to-government relationship. We expect better and hope to meet with the governor to discuss this issue.”

Bison, or the American buffalo, hold cultural, spiritual and economic value to Plains Indians, and were almost completely eliminated across the American Great Plains following American expansion in the late 19th century.

Tribes in Montana and other parties, including the state of Montana, for years have worked in good faith to restore bison to some of their historic range in the state.

Members of the caucus, however, heard second- hand about Gianforte’s decision in a caucus meeting and were disappointed that neither the governor nor any member of his administration bothered to tell them that he was halting bison restoration planning for the next 10 years.

Indian caucus members also expressed a desire to find out more and to ensure that tribal nations in Montana that have participated in bison management planning over the last decade are made aware that the plan was being scrapped.

“We’re literally one floor away from the governor in the state Capitol,” said Senator Susan Webber. “He could have told us about his decision in person.”

“This action violates longstanding practices around tribal consultation and maintaining strong government to government relationships,” Representative Stewart-Peregoy added. “We’re very disappointed. The Intertribal Bison Cooperative has worked with federal, state, and tribal governments the last decade to develop a plan to reintroduce Yellowstone bison into tribal herds. We hope the Governor will work in good faith with all tribal nations and representatives in a government-to-government relationship that recognizes our sovereignty and our willingness to listen to one another and work together.”

All of Montana’s tribal leaders are formally urging the Governor to veto the remaining bison bills, HB 302 and HB 318, on their way to his desk

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